I find that readers either like HP Lovecraft or hate him, or have never heard of him before. Not many are ambivalent. The man wrote wonderfully creepy and demented books, and he wrote what he lived. That is not to say that monsters and Cthulhu are real by any stretch of the imagination. They are figments of reality that humans can recognize and that Lovecraft showed as coming through the cracks of his society.
People call Lovecraft the father of Weird fiction for a very good reason. He led to authors like Stephen King and to Ray Bradbury. He influenced everyone from Iron Maiden, to Metallica, to Dungeons and Dragons, to even the Stargate universe. Basically if you like Hard Rock or Horror or the soft end of Science Fiction you owe something to Lovecraft. I think that means reading him.
We at Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped have multiple collections of stories by him but my personal favorite is At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels. Our catalog description runs thus:
“Collection of three novels and five short stories spanning the years 1919 to 1933. The title piece chronicles a university expedition to Antarctica, where strange fossils and extremely old ruins are found. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is Lovecraft’s masterpiece of demonic horror. Introduction includes author biographical information.”
These stories are creepy and awful, in the truest sense of being full of awe. At the Mountain of Madness is the story of an expedition to the South Pole that goes rather poorly. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is Lovecraft’s version of magic and what can go wrong, so of course a good chunk takes place in an insane asylum. I’ll leave the third novel in here untouched. You should read and find out.
This collection also includes by far my favorite story and how I introduce people to Lovecraft. It is a short piece called The Statement of Randolph Carter and without going overboard or even letting you glimpse the chaos of his world, Lovecraft gives you a taste of his writing that had me coming back for more.
One warning. Lovecraft can be racist. It comes more in some stories then in others but it is there. I think he still merits reading but you should be aware.